The customer is [not] always right

 Ok, so this is not a radically new point of view.  However, although some may disagree about the adversarial tone of this post’s title, it doesn’t get discussed often enough that customer – company relationship are two way streets.

Other successful relationships in our lives are based on trust, mutual respect and understanding.  So, why should we as customers think these same principles wouldn’t apply to our commercial relationships?  We, as consumers, have a responsibility to uphold our end of this equation if we expect a superior experience from those with whom we choose to spend our dollars; even in one-time transaction-based relationships.

This concept hit me on the head recently as I was observing, at close range, the negotiations between a company and a potential software vendor.  Anyone that’s been through this process will relate to this statement.  Without fail, every such negotiation I have been involved in that is contentious in nature, sets the relationship off in the wrong direction.  The vendor feels they got taken advantage of and goes into implementation with a ‘do the minimum’ mentality.  And the customer has unrealistic expectations, regardless of the price they paid, based on the promises made during the sales cycle.

So, here’s a list of what I call Customer Responsibilities.  Take ownership of these things, and watch your relationships flourish.

  • Be educated.  Syms, a discount clothing retailer, tag line is “an educated consumer is our best customer”.  I think Sy Syms was talking about this very subject.
  • Be reasonable.  You are well within your rights to negotiate and even ask for things you know you’ll never get.  But, don’t blow up the experience by insisting on them. This stems from being educated.
  • Be transparent.  This doesn’t mean showing all your cards at negotiation either.  But, if you have skeletons like bad credit or have intentions for the product beyond its intended use, or you have deadlines or budget constraints, disclose those things or you’re wasting everyone’s time
  • Be a partner.  Think beyond the transaction to what the long term relationship with your company can mean for your supplier and work together to create mutual value
  • Be the bigger person.  Sometimes the guy on the other side of the table, whether sales, service, accounts receivable or other, is going to behave badly.  Rise above it and work even harder at winning them over. 

Think forward to your future relationships.  What can you do differently to get the relationship off on the right foot, keep it there or get it back on track?

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